Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has confessed to modifying the posts of some users on the most visible Donald Trump-supporting “subreddit” community after they repeatedly slung verbal abuse in his direction.
The story begins earlier this week, when The New York Times published a report on Comet Ping Pong, a Washington DC pizza place that a false news item on social media had pegged as the center of a child-abuse ring run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign head John Podesta, despite a lack of any evidence.
Following that report, Reddit took steps to shut down the “r/Pizzagate” subreddit community, which had the stated goal of proving the existence of a conspiracy centering on Comet Ping Pong. “We don’t want witchhunts on our site,” says the warning that replaced the Pizzagate page on Reddit.
The move to shut down r/Pizzagate proved controversial to users of “r/The_Donald,” Reddit’s most popular community for supporters of Donald Trump. Those users repeatedly left comments to the effect of “f**k u/spez” and other forms of abuse, including Huffman’s “u/spez” Reddit name in the post to make sure he was notified of each new message.
On Wednesday afternoon, members of “The_Donald” noticed that their posts had changed without their knowledge or consent: Instead of referencing Huffman himself, the posts now hurled the same expletives at the moderators of the “The_Donald” community.
Angry “The _Donald” members accused Reddit leadership of modifying or otherwise censoring their posts – which turned out to be correct, when Huffman posted the following comment, confessing that it was him personally who was performing the changes (with expletives taken out):
Yep. I messed with the “f**k u/spez ” comments, replacing “spez” with r/the_donald mods for about an hour. It’s been a long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff. As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a pedophile constantly. As the CEO, I shouldn’t play such games, and it’s all fixed now. Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won’t do this again.
“As the CEO, I shouldn’t play such games, and it’s all fixed now. Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won’t do this again,” Huffman wrote.
Now, users of “The_Donald” are accusing Huffman of having destroyed Reddit’s credibility – given that the site has previously shut down controversial subreddit communities over illegal content posted there, they’re now accusing Huffman of laying the groundwork for a crackdown on “The_Donald,” with whom Reddit leadership has long had a contentious relationship.
Huffman took the role as Reddit CEO in mid-2015, following the departure of interim CEO Ellen Pao. Pao left Reddit in the wake of the “Reddit Revolt,” which saw members of the site stage protests after the controversial firing of a well-liked employee.
Reddit declined to comment.